Metaphor in culture: LIFE IS A SHOW in Chinese

Ning Yu, Dingding Jia

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20 Scopus citations


This study analyzes the linguistic patterns via both qualitative and quantitative data that manifest the underlying conceptual metaphor life is a show in Chinese. It starts with an analysis of the performing arts frame as the source domain of the show metaphor. The frame comprises three major aspects: people, performance, and venue, and each of them has a focal element, respectively role, opera, and stage. It argues that the second one, opera, which refers to "Chinese opera", a prominent form of performing arts in traditional Chinese culture, is the central element that dominates the whole frame. A systematic qualitative analysis of linguistic data shows that, because its source domain centers on Chinese opera, the life is a show metaphor generates a large number of culture-specific linguistic instantiations in Chinese. A quantitative perspective supported by corpus data reinforces the argument that this metaphor plays a central role in the Chinese conceptualization of events and phenomena in various domains of life, constituting a core component of the Chinese cultural model of life. The study concludes that the show metaphor has a salient subversion life is an opera in Chinese, in contrast with its sister life is a play found salient in English.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)147-180
Number of pages34
JournalCognitive Linguistics
Issue number2
StatePublished - May 1 2016

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Linguistics and Language


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